The Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K Ultra HD was and still is one of the best streaming devices on the market. With an RRP of £49.99, at the time of launch, it was one of two devices supporting Dolby Vision and HDR10+ and a fraction of the price of the Apple TV.

The year has seen the introduction of the Fire TV Cube which takes all the features from the Fire TV Stick 4K bumps up the processing spec then shoves it inside a cube shape along with an Echo Dot.

Fire TV Cube | Hands free with Alexa, 4K Ultra HD streaming...
  • Fire TV Cube is the fastest, most powerful Fire TV...
  • Control your compatible soundbar and A/V receiver;...
  • From across the room, just ask Alexa to turn on...
  • With an ultra-powerful hexa-core processor, enjoy...

It is a big upgrade, and a fantastic device, but and more than double the price of the Fire TV Stick 4K it feels less impressive. Then there is the just-launched Nvidia Shield 2019, which lowers the price of the Shield and introduces Dolby Vision and a new AI upscaling. So the price difference is now much closer, and the Shield can do most of the stuff the Fire TV can.

Disappointingly when my Fire TV Cube arrived, I had to set it up from scratch even though Amazon has the link account option. This is particularly frustrating due to my exceptionally long random password and having to input it via an onscreen keyboard. In comparison, with the Shield, you can log in via your phone.

Once you log in, you can set up the universal remote control which allows you to control both your TV and speakers via the IR equipped remote. This took just a few seconds to set up and once that was done it was also possible to issue commands to the Fire TV allowing me remote free control of the device. In reality, I hardly use this feature with the exception of switching my TV on. It is a nice feature to have, and useful for moments when you can’t find your remote.

As stated, the Cube is basically a love child of the Stick and Echo dot. So not only can you control your TV via your voice, when everything is switched off, the Cube will also provide notifications or voice control of whatever you want. This, therefore, helps justify the cost of the Cube even if the cost of a dot and a Fire TV Stick is less than this.

While I love the Echo notification functionality while my TV is off, it has become extremely frustrating with my TV on. If someone comes to the door, my Ring pushes notifications to Echo, with the Cube this pauses what I am watching, replacing it was a full-screen notification warning and plays the notification sound through my large and loud Monitor Audio speakers. It does mean I never miss someone coming to the door, but it is not a pleasant experience. I am sure there might be a way to disable this, but I can’t work out how or where to do this.

From what I can gather, the only way to stop this is to stop notifications completely, which is not really an option as I have other Echo’s that I want to continue using the notification.

Another issue I have with the Cube is the ethernet functionality, no ethernet port was forgivable on the stick, the size of it and price easily justified the lack of its existence, but not so here. You do get an ethernet adaptor, but this is the same adaptor that has been available for years running at 100Mbps. Try streaming a 70GB 4K file over your network using that. It can be done, sometimes, just about. Quite often you will run into buffering issues though. Admittedly using Wi-Fi 5 or 802.11ac fixes this issue, but Wi-Fi, in general, can be finicky and on a dual-channel SSID I have had it connect to the 2.4Ghz network over the 5Ghz network before, even though the router is right by the device.

Moving on from them gripes, everything else works well, the overall Cube experience is almost identical to the Fire TV Stick. The interface isn't as nice as the Shield with too many adverts, but overall it works well, subjectively the whole interface feels quicker, and that could be due to the improved chipset in this new model. The new Fire TV Cube bumps that up considerably with a hexa-core ARM CPU packing four cores at up to 2.2GHz and two more cores at up to 1.9GHz.

 Fire TV Stick 3rd Gen /
Fire TV Stick Lite
Fire TV Stick
2nd Gen
Fire TV Stick 4K Fire TV Cube
Year Launched20202016
Updated 2019 with new remote
20182019
Price£29.99 (Lite)
£39.99 (3rd Gen )
£39.99£49.99£109.99
ResolutionUp to 1920 x 1080 (1080p) - 60Hz720p and 1080p up to 60fps2160p, 1080p and 720p up to 60 fps2160p, 1080p and 720p up to 60 fps
HDRHDR10+, HLGNoneDolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLGDolby Vision, HDR 10, HDR10+, HLG
Video CodecsH.265 (HEVC). Hardware-accelerated up to 1080p @ 60fps, 20 Mbps, Main 10 Profile Level 4.1, Color space 8-bit and 10-bit input with HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG.

H.264. Hardware-accelerated up to 1080p @ 60fps, High Profile up to Level 4.

VP8. Supported up to 1080p 30fps. Baseline profile, non-secure

VP9. Hardware accelerated up to 1080p @ 60fps, Profile 2 up to 20 Mbps
H.265 (HEVC). Hardware accelerated up to 1080p @ 30fps, 25 Mbps, Main Profile Level 4.0, Color space 8-bit support

H.264. Hardware accelerated up to 1080p @ 30fps or 720p @ 60fps, 20 Mbps, High Profile up to Level 4

VP8 & VP9 is not listed
Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision support for Profile 4-MEL, 5, 8, 9. (Up to Level 9 for profiles 5 and 8. Up to Level 5 for Profile 9.)

H.265 (HEVC). Hardware accelerated up to 3840x2160p (4K) @ 60fps, 35 Mbps, Main 10 Profile Level 5.1, Color space 8-bit and 10-bit input with HDR10, HDR10+, and HLG.

H.264. Hardware accelerated up to 3840x2160p (4K) @ 30fps, 1080p @ 60fps, or 720p @ 60fps, 20 Mbps, High Profile up to Level 4.

VP8. Supported up to 1080p 30fps. Baseline profile, non-secure

VP9. Hardware accelerated up to 1080p @ 60fps, Profile 2 up to 20 Mbps
H.265 (HEVC). Hardware accelerated up to 2160p (4K) @ 60fps Main Profile Level 5.1

H.264. Hardware accelerated up to 2160p @ 30fps or 1080p @ 60fps, 20 Mbps, High Profile up to Level 4

VP8

VP9. Hardware accelerated up to 2160p @ 60fps (with limitations)
AudioDolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+ surround sound (not on Lite model)

HDMI Audio pass-through for Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+ and Dolby Atmos.
Dolby Audio, 5.1 surround sound
2ch stereo, and HDMI audio pass-through up to 7.1
Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound
2ch stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 5.1.
Dolby Atmos, 7.1 surround sound
2ch stereo and HDMI audio pass through up to 5.1.
SpeakerNoNoNoBuilt-in 1.6'' (40 mm) speaker
Voice ControlYesYes, with Alexa Voice Remote or paired EchoYes, with the Alexa Voice Remote or paired echoFar-field and near-field voice support
ProcessorMediaTek MT8695D
Quad Core
4x ARM Cortex-A53 @1.7GHz
32-bit
MediaTek MT8127D
4x ARM Cortex-A7 @ 1.3 GHz
MediaTek MT8695D
4x ARM Cortex-A53 @1.7GHz
Amlogic S922X
Hex-core
4 x Arm Coretex A73 - 2.2 GHz
2 x Arm Coretex A53 - 1.9 GHz
GPUIMG GE8300Mali 450 MP4PowerVR IMG GE8300 Mali G52-MP6, 800 MHz
Storage8GB8GB8GB16GB
Memory1GB, DDR41GB1.5GB2GB
Wi-Fi802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi - dual-antenna802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi802.11ac dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi - dual-antenna
Ethernet No - Ethernet adaptopr limited to 10/100No - Ethernet adaptopr limited to 10/100No - Ethernet adaptopr limited to 10/100
PortsHDMI, Power, Micro USB, Wired Infrared supportHDMI output, micro-USB for power only.HDMI output, micro-USB for power only.HDMI, power, micro-USB, wired infrared support
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0Bluetooth 4.1BT 4.2 and BLEBluetooth 5.0 + LE.

It is the remote that remains one of the strong points about the Fire TV, this fully integrates with both my TV and amplifier working seamlessly as one universal remote control. Much more than can be said for the new Nvidia Shield, which only seems to want to work with the receiver.

As for watching TV on the device, it works the same as last year. Compatibility is superb,  I have experienced no issues with playing back content, including 4K. The overall picture quality is excellent, though you may need to tweak the settings. I spent over a week using my Sony AF8 OLED in 8bit mode, and I was getting paranoid there was an issue with the TV due to all the backs and greys being blotchy.

Where Amazon still outshines Nvidia is the availability of catch up services. Nvidia still lacks Channel 4 where has Amazon has the full line up. The Shield has Chromecast, but I find it much more inconvenient to use than a native app.

It is also worth noting that Amazon supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, while the Shield only has Dolby Vision.

With this interfacing with your TV, you get similar functionality to the Echo Show so can call up video footage from compatible cameras and such. As I lack any of these (apart from Ring) I have not tested them.

Overall

While I do have a couple of gripes with the Amazon Fire TV Cube, it is a superb device and better than last years, offering excellent voice control superb HDR compatibility and being one of the best streaming devices on the market.

However, I just don’t feel the 120% price increase is worth it over last year’s Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K even if you add in an Echo Dot you are paying £100 full price or £85 currently.

I am however also having some issues with the new Nvidia Shield with he audio dropping out, so as far as new streaming devices go, I am not sure which is best yet, and for the time being, I am still classing last year’s Fire TV Stick as the best device for streaming.

  • Overall - 75%
    75%
75%

Summary

While this is an excellent addition to the Fire TV family, the gripes I had with it combined with its price mean that the Amazon Fire TV 4K is probably a better buy overall. However, this is probably something I will inevitably re-buy during Black Friday or other sales when the price is more attractive

Last update on 2020-10-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API